12 She tried to stand, but it was hard for her to balance. Her knees buckled and he held his arms out to catch her, but she managed to steady herself before falling against him. Even these simple movements winded her with how much exertion they took. She felt like she was walking across a tightrope rather than simply standing on the cool stone floor with how challenging it was for her to stay balanced. “Don’t overdo it, darling,” he said as he stood up. He didn’t stand far from her side, but his hands were finally off of her. If she could stay on her feet, this would be her chance to get away. He was keeping his tone gentle, but she didn’t trust him. His reactions were too inconsistent. “It’s probably best if you don’t stand for too long,” he said, reaching out to place his hand on her shoulder. Before those fingers could clamp down on her again, she took off. She took her first step with more ease than she expected, but started to stumble as she hastened her pace. Her sights were set on the door, but she chanced a glance over her shoulder to look back at him. He looked so stunned that she was trying to flee that he seemed unable to respond for a moment. It worked to her advantage, for despite the way she stumbled, she was still able to reach the door before he did. He snapped to attention when her hands reached the doorknob. The metal was cold under her fingers and she struggled to grasp it. She fumbled with it, trying to turn it, figuring there was little chance that it was locked from the inside. It just wouldn’t make sense.
Regardless, she just couldn’t make her hands obey her. The muscles weren’t letting her hold on tight enough to turn it. She heard footsteps behind her, but it didn’t even sound like he was approaching quickly. The steps she heard were slow but heavy, which was somehow even worse than if he was running toward her. She grabbed the doorknob with both hands and wrenched it over to the side. She leaned her weight against it and the last pull was just enough. The door burst open and she landed upon her knees in the doorway. She winced at the collision between the rough stone in the corridor and her knees, but she looked up and saw a short staircase leading to another door at the end of the hallway. The hall wasn’t as well-lit as the lab, yet still, it felt like escape was in sight. She struggled to get back to her feet and had to grab onto the door for support as she pulled herself back up. His footsteps were getting closer, even at the ridiculously leisurely pace of his stroll. She only managed two more steps before he was upon her. He pressed her to the wall, using his body to pin her there. She strained against him and suddenly he let her go, releasing her wrists and stepping back, giving her the briefest moment of relief washing over her. It wouldn’t be logical for him to shove her against the wall, making her scraped knees ache even worse, but the paradoxical behavior he’d shown thus far made the reaction seem faintly possible. The feeling of hope was there as soon as he was no longer touching her, but almost instantly, she realized that she still couldn’t move. She looked at her hand and stared at it, thinking it 13